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‘Ugh, It’s A Long Wait’: D.J. Dolack on Writing and Castles of Hipness

By Harriet Staff


A hot tip from Black Ocean Publishers lead us to this cool and timely Q+A with Black Ocean author, D.J. Dolack. We found this part of the interview particularly compelling:

5 – Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?

I definitely don’t think about reading or performing while writing, but there can be a good amount of assonance and sound structure going on in the poems that I don’t try to stop unless it becomes too much. It can get schticky. So I have to keep an eye on that, but it can also help when it comes time to read the poems aloud.

I do like reading a lot, but it’s become quite difficult to have faith in poetry readings these days, especially in New York City. The scenester cliques here have gotten out of hand, and I feel like a lot of the readings that get touted are altogether not very representative of the quality of NYC poetry. This is also probably an affect of Facebook casting shadows and spells as well. I certainly don’t take issue with writing circles, scenes, or collaboration, etc. — those things are obviously a necessary part of the poetry and small press cultures most of us function within. But with NYC, there’s a nepotism that really gets to me, and more specifically the fact that people can be seemingly blind to quality of work, opting instead for the clever or chuckle-inducing poet that can marshal the irony parade for the evening. Partying or taking staged Instagram glamour shots with someone is sometimes more likely to garner buzz around here than the quality of your work. And that’s sad and embarrassing, but it’s becoming more and more true. I’m happy we all have friends and groups of friends and support and people to get wasted with, or prance around on Facebook in the name of tagging and this pseudo Frank O’Hara romanticised lifestyle. Well done. We’ve all made it into the Urban Outfitters catalog! But I’m sorry, it doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good poet. It’s style over substance in many cases, which is a shame because there are some truly great writers here doing some terrific work. I think it’s easy to see these little cliques amalgamate into some castle of hipness that feels impenetrable to some younger poets, so much that they feel they need to bow down and knock thrice the secret code at the gates. Ultimately, I think if people read and write critically, this kind of thing only has so much weight. I have faith in that. I have faith that at some point, criticism and conversation will once again trump hipness. But ugh, it’s a long wait.

Read more at Rob McLennan’s blog.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, October 3rd, 2013 by Harriet Staff.